Themes, Forms and Metamorphoses- Essays in Honour of David Gascoigne
Edited By Lorna Milne and Mary Orr
Susan Bainbrigge - ‘Terre d’asile, terre d’accueil’: Explorations of the Robinsonade in Pierre Mertens’s 'Terre d’asile' -215
Susan Bainbrigge ‘Terre d’asile, terre d’accueil’: Explorations of the Robinsonade in Pierre Mertens’s Terre d’asile As its title suggests, Terre d’asile by Pierre Mertens is a novel about asylum, both political and psychological. It was published in 1978, shortly after Mertens himself had returned from a two-year stint in Chile on human rights missions.1 He was not interested only in Chile but had also visited Portugal, Cyprus and Northern Ireland; and, closer to home, he had been interested in the experiences of immigrants coming to Belgium since the 1950s.2 In Terre d’asile the South American protagonist, Jaime Morales, takes refuge in Belgium from the Chilean regime under Pinochet, and the novel describes how he comes to terms with an alienating new environ- ment. With this context of displacement in mind, the starting point of this analysis is a comparison of Terre d’asile with the legacy of the ‘robinsonade’ in literature. I will consider to what extent the famous myth emerges in the text and, in the process, I aim to bring Mertens’s text to a wider audience. It is very much David Gascoigne’s research interest in Michel Tournier and myth that inspires this essay (in particular his research and teaching on Tournier’s Vendredi ou les limbes du pacifique, the very well-known rewrit- ing of Defoe’s story).3 The robinsonade myth is one that seems to have endured through waves of modernity and postmodernity, and loses none of its relevance in more recently published texts. If anything, questions of 1 The...
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